Ace Boggess

“Would You Stay Calm or Would You Panic?”

                        -question asked by Nathan D. Horowitz

I’ve grinned at fists that bludgeoned me,
while inside I absorbed inches
of distance dwindling. I stood paralyzed
as in webs of many spiders.

See me there strumming a chord on stage,
leaning on the house guitar?
I tremble so much a bead of sweat
jogs zigzags down my cheek.

Panic never leaves. I wear calm
like a summer shirt—loose, lazy.
One kicks the other in the shin
under a table where no one can see.

Not an either/or; an either/&:
panic an overheating motor,
calm the FM station, stereo
turned up loud to mask the grind.


Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—Misadventure, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, Ultra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.

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